Dirtbag Day 37

Austin Haedicke bio photo By Austin Haedicke

This topic warrants some discussion, but I’ll try to keep it brief and practical. Two long standing principles of my athletic career have somewhat come into conflict with when enacted within a dirtbag lifestyle.

  • you can’t (completely) outwork a shitty diet

  • experience is the best teacher

We’ve all probably heard stories of 1970-something ancient hard men in Yosemite dirbagging it and going as far as to sustain themselves on water and cat food (check one for experience). But anyone who has taken any sport or activity very seriously knows that you can only train as hard / often as you can recover from (a nod towards nutrition [and sleep]).

It’s a no brainer that one’s strength-to-weight ratio is important in climbing. However, it is not exactly paramount. In addition to Angie Payne’s stance on the issue, I offer the metaphor of climbing gear. Will more aggressive shoes help you crush steeper pebbles? Will more and more shiny cams help you maintain a level head on a sketchy run out? For most of us, probably not.

Sure, at some level (keep in mind Angie is a V14 climber) those kind of micro adjustments might make a “significant” difference, but it seems like time could be much better spent if get more ascents under our belts rather than bickering about Paleo vs. Vegan or Shaman’s vs. Solutions.

That isn’t to say that nutrition isn’t important at all. One has to wonder how much harder those old-time legends might have climbed if their bodies were properly nourished? Maybe you can still kill it on a steady diet of Skittles, Diet Coke, and American Spirits; but would it really be that hard to (for example) eat something green at least once per day and two to three other things that grow?

If you didn’t catch the drift I’m talking from a purely performance-based perspective here. I don’t know nearly as much about Biology as I do climbing — and I still feel quite n00b-ish fairly frequently at that. My point in all of this is that I think there is a balance to be had. Everyone has their reasons for doing (or not) what they do. Obsession over dietary practices surely isn’t mentally healthy and the “benefit” phisiologically or — oops, I said I wasn't going here — or performance benefit may not nearly be proportional.

Simply put, if you have to be 20% more neurotic about what you nosh on, then hopefully there’s a 20% or more benefit you’re seeing from it. Of course, there is some wiggle room and the whole 80 / 20 principle… But alas, this is why we *climb on, climb strong, and fly free.